Half of the fastest-growing occupations today are in the healthcare industry, with a projected growth of 3.2 million jobs before 2018.
Although some of those jobs may be better paying than others, the whiff of opportunity attracted nearly 100 UGA students to a health careers event in October.
Many came for practical advice about preparing for future jobs, never expecting passionate testimonials from speakers But by the end of the session, they’d heard plenty of both.
The event offered perspectives on healthcare from a registered nurse, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, a physician, a dentist, a speech pathologist, an optometrist, a physician’s assistant, a physical therapist and the assistant dean of the .
While the chance of finding some form of health-related work is strong, speakers emphasized that there are keys to success.
For one, said Athens-area optometrist Dr. Joel Jenkins, students should be mindful of the amount of debt they take on to pursue their careers.
“Debt can be crushing. You need to be frugal,” he said. “Don’t come out from school with a large amount of debt.”
Students also need to find a way to set themselves apart from the crowd, to differentiate themselves as individuals, according to Alan Wolfgang, Assistant Dean to the UGA College of Pharmacy, and Athens-area dentist Glenn Alex.
“It’s not enough to be bright and pass your exams,” said Wolfgang, noting that chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are particular. “They really want to know what else you bring to the table. Think about involvement. Think about what else you bring.”
Dr. Jean Chin, a physician at the UGA Health Center, emphasized that being an effective communicator is essential for success in the healthcare field.
“You need to learn how to communicate and get out from your smartphones and computers and connect with people,” she said. “Get to know somebody in the field and get to know them well. You’ll need a strong reference.”
Shadowing can be particularly useful in plotting a career path, said physical therapist Kelli Dehelean.
“Until you really see what someone does in their profession, you don’t really know what they do,” said Dehelean.
People trained as physician’s assistants will find good opportunities, said Tammy Webb, a PA at the UGA Health Center, but shiftwork is frequently required and people often work overtime in the early morning or late at night.
For Laura Smith, an RN at the UGA Health Center, being a nurse doesn’t mean getting rich, but she thinks the versatility that nurses have is worth its weight in gold.
“You can find a job anywhere you want to go, any place you want to go,” she said. “If you ever want to work extra hours, nursing affords you that. When my children were young, I worked just weekends.”
On the other hand, physicians often find private practice an impediment to romantic relationships, said Dr. Christopher E. Doerr, an osteopath. One solution may be to find an equally busy partner.
Speech pathologist Ange Kahn loves leaving the office to get out, travel and visit clients in their home setting.
“So, I’ve heard a lot of talk about money, security, marriage and children. Anybody have a sense of adventure? We’re the humble people who get out there on the road,” she said. “I go visit five or six people a day and usually I’m the best thing that’s happened in their day.”
Her display of passion ended with general words of wisdom on finding happiness in life.
“I hope I never retire. If I retire, I hope I die the day after,” she said with great enthusiasm. “Find something that you can do that gives you that same kind of joie de vivre.”
This event was one of a series of events held by the UGA Career Center to help students with career choices and gaining employment. Future UGA Career Center events can be found at the center's website. . Career information resources are also available at http://career.uga.edu.